Victoria dominates FFA Cup, with NSW and Queensland trailing PFA study reveals

The FFA Cup has only been going for three years but already it has captured the imagination of the soccer public – nowhere more so than in Victoria.
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Two of the three FFA Cup winners – Melbourne Victory in 2015 and Melbourne City in 2016 – come from the state capital, while two National Premier League Victoria clubs, Hume City and Bentleigh Greens, have made the semi final.

The first winner, Adelaide, came from South . Beaten finalists Perth Glory (2014 and 2015) and Sydney (2016) came from WA and NSW respectively.

Queensland teams have fared poorly, with not even one side from the Sunshine State making it to the last four, something the ACT achieved last year when Canberra Olympic lost to Sydney.

Unlike the other footballing codes in which matches invariably are won by the highest quality team or the one that dominates possession, soccer lends itself to more regular upsets.

It is impossible to imagine a genuine knockout Cup competition in n Rules football or the rugby codes where power, strength and possession invariably determine results. State and second tier teams would have little chance even against the struggling top level teams due to the quality differential in players and the disparity in resources.

But the nature of soccer makes it much more possible for “mismatches” to provide compelling contests.

In soccer tactics can play a much greater role, with teams who can organise themselves defensively able to frustrate better credentialed opponents and sometimes score a goal on the break with what might be their only real attack of the match.

In footy or rugby, if a team has three times the number of inside 50s, entries near the try line or set shots for goal as its opponent, it’s not going to lose.

After three FFA Cup competitions it is possible to mine the data to find evidence of why and how the tournament – outside the obvious romance of a lower team knocking over a so-called superior – is popular, and what trends are emerging in the early years.

The Cup offers teams from all over the country from every tier of football the chance to progress and meet an A-League side in a knockout game.

As such it draws a huge entry. Data from a detailed survey of the FFA Cup collated by the players union, the PFA, shows that in year one of the competition 589 clubs entered, with over half coming from Victoria and NSW.

By the third year (2016) the number had grown by almost 20 per cent, with 700 teams entering from the earliest stages with, once again, the two most populous states providing the greatest number.

As there are only 10 A-League clubs, the vast majority of entrants come from the FFA’s “Member Federations”.

Of those the most successful – if success is measured by performance of second tier sides from the round of 32 onwards, which is when A-League teams come into the draw – is Victoria.

Teams from the NPL Victoria and lower Victorian leagues have played 30 matches at this stage of the competition and won 14, drawing five and losing only 11 for a win percentage of 47 per cent. Not all those games have been against A-League opposition, of course, but Victorian NPL teams Bentleigh Greens (2014) and Hume City (2015) have both progressed to the semi final, while Green Gully and Bentleigh both made the quarter finals in 2016.

Perhaps surprisingly the next best percentage performers have been clubs from the ACT and South , both from a much lower sample of seven matches. Teams from Adelaide and Canberra have won three of those encounters, giving them a 43 per cent success rate.

Teams from NSW have a relatively poor rate in comparison. Clubs affiliated to the Football NSW region won seven out of 26 games from the round of 32 onwards, drawing two and losing 17 for a 27 per cent record. Teams from the Northern NSW area have a much lower success rate than those from Canberra or Adelaide even though they played the same number of matches – seven. Northern NSW teams won only once at this stage of the competition, losing five and drawing once for a 14 per cent strike rate.

Queensland clubs fared reasonably well in broad terms, winning seven out of 20 for a 35 per cent hit rate, but rarely at the latter stages of the tournament, with none having ever made a semi final.

Given the nature of the fixtures – where there are teams of various mixed abilities – the scores in games tend to be bigger than on average.

The PFA data shows that the average FFA Cup goals per game ratio has been around 4.5 per match for the three seasons of the competition, some 50 per cent more than the just under three goals a game averaged in A-League contests in the same period.

The story is much closer, it should be pointed out, from the round of 32 onwards when the A-League sides enter. Games become tighter and more evenly matched, and although the FFA Cup average is above three, the goals per game ratio is much more in line with the A-League.

It would seem counter-intuitive to think that the part timers of the Member Federation clubs would have a better away record than the professionals of the A-League, but that’s how things have emerged from the statistics of the first three years of the competition.

Non A-League teams have, on average, won 48 per cent of their away games compared to the 39.2 score for A-League sides on the road. Competition rules state that when an A-League side is drawn against a Member Federation team it has to play its fixtures at the lower ranked club’s ground.

“Despite lacking the fully professional logistical support of A-League teams, Member Federation clubs travelling interstate in the FFA Cup actually outperform A-League away teams. Perhaps the novelty and camaraderie of travelling away together has elevated the performance of these teams for one-off matches,” the report suggests.

Perhaps not surprisingly the average age of Member Federation club players is much lower – at 24.9 years – than that of A-League teams in Cup matches, where the average is 27.1. NPL teams tend to have younger players hoping to make a breakthrough and find a route into the professional game.

Member Federation clubs are also much likelier to play teenagers in Cup games according to the PFA data: some 13.5 per cent of appearances by players in Member Federation teams were made by teenagers compared to less than 7 per cent by A-League teams in Cup games.

The Allan Border medal: Three-way battle for cricket’s highest individual honour

The battle to be crowned ‘s best cricketer – and potentially highest paid – is expected to be tight at the Allan Border medal count in Sydney on Monday night.
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Skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and spearhead Mitchell Starc are expected to lead the overall count to claim the Allan Border medal in a year when they have been central to ‘s fortunes.

Smith has enjoyed fruitful Test and short-form campaigns, Warner has gorged on runs in the 50-overs format, while Starc has been particularly potent in the Test arena. The weighted voting system towards Tests – they are given three-times the value of Twenty20 internationals and double one-day internationals – ensures the game’s traditional format remains key to the overall count.

The voting period is from January 8 last year to January 7 this year, and includes the Test series victory in New Zealand, the 3-0 Test series loss in Sri Lanka, the 5-0 one-day series defeat in South Africa and a tumultuous home summer where the team rose from the depths of despair against South Africa to crunching Pakistan.

Smith was the dominant Test batsman, thumping 1162 runs at 68.35, including four centuries. Warner averaged less than 40 with the bat but was brilliant in the 50-overs format, thumping seven centuries at 63.09, and appears certain to be crowned one-day international player of the year. These performances, along with his contributions in the Test arena, may be enough to have him crowned the Border medallist.

Starc was absent from the tour of New Zealand because of injury but was by far his team’s best player in Sri Lanka, claiming 24 wickets at 15.16. He would have a combined 28 wickets in six home Tests, finishing the voting period with 52 wickets at 24.29.

Smith, Warner and Starc are also set to jostle for the honour of being the No.1 ranked player when the national selectors and Cricket do their next round of lucrative contracts. Test matches hold the balance of power in the list, while claiming the Allan Border medal could also be a pivotal factor. Regardless, the three appear certain to occupy the leaderboard and pocket more than $2 million each when the contracts are announced in April.

Pay discussions over a new memorandum of understanding between CA and players which have reopened in recent days could mean CA-ranked players enjoy even greater financial spoils from next year should the governing body get its way. CA wants only the best players to share in the set percentage model – with a major raise – despite players at domestic and international level having enjoyed this system since 1997.

“As a principle for the new MOU, CA believes retainers for international men should increase significantly compared to the retainers that were agreed in the current MOU,” CA’s submission says.

Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson, the latter by way of his strong form in the T20 World Cup, are expected to poll well for the T20 award.

All-rounder Ellyse Perry has again has been tipped to be named the Belinda Clark player of the year for her efforts in the one-day international and Twenty20 arenas, while Meg Lanning is likely to be crowned best domestic player. The Clark award, named after the former n captain and three-time World Cup winner, has been redesigned into a teardrop-shaped medallion.

“There is a strong tradition of recognising performances in the n team. However, what we were seeking was to create was something distinct and unique that recognised the level of performance that was being obtained,” Clark said.

“Similarly to the Allan Border Medal with its own look and feel, it’s appropriate that this award also has its own identity and we’re really excited with what we’ve come up with.”

Tim Lane: Nick Kyrgios’ failings play under the spotlight

Nick Kyrgios: It’s crucial for him that his tendency to self-destruct be properly addressed. Photo: Darrian TraynorWhen a live interview is likely to be prickly, an interviewer can feel somewhat apprehensive in the lead-up. As last Wednesday night’s match between Nick Kyrgios and Andreas Seppi neared its climax, Channel 7’s hired gun, Jim Courier, could be seen waiting in the shadows. A penny for his thoughts.
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Would it be Seppi, or would it be Kyrgios? I’d wager Courier was putting more thought into how he’d handle the latter possibility. I’d also wager part of him hoped it would be the former. A brief, and very visible, chat about a performance as complex as that of Kyrgios wasn’t going to be easy.

Alone among the TV commentators in frankly addressing what had been happening on the court, Courier is sufficiently thorough that any such interview would cover all the bases.

As it turned out, it was Seppi. Which brings to mind an interesting aspect of the television coverage of well-established, highly professionalised events like major tennis championships. For Kyrgios was the story. Yet there are limits to the control exercised by the rights-holding network.

Which is in contrast to sporting competitions still in the development phase. Later that same evening, during Ten’s coverage of The Big Bash League, Shane Watson admitted he was doing an interview under sufferance, having a few minutes earlier lost his wicket in frustrating circumstances.

Entertainment prevails in the still-developing BBL and the players play the game.

Leading up to Watson’s dismissal, the entertainment mindset was overplayed when the commentators passed statistical information to the Adelaide Strikers’ captain, Brad Hodge, live to air. This related to a particular bowler’s previous success against Watson. Even in Big Bash this was beyond the pale and cricket officialdom has reminded Network Ten of the integrity issues involved.

Such is the BBL’s nature that its organisers must think hard about how the balance between sport and entertainment is struck. The previous night, there had been media criticism of the fact that Brendon McCullum was prevented from playing for the Brisbane Heat against the Melbourne Stars due to suspension. As the Heat’s captain, McCullum had been twice adjudged responsible for overseeing slow over rates.

In the opinion of some, he was too important a drawcard to be sidelined and organisers owed it to the crowd to let him play.

The moral of this story? Even where rules clearly exist, it doesn’t take long for pressure to mount that they be ignored … in the interests of entertainment of course.

Back to Kyrgios, and if he continues on his current path he could become the saddest form of sporting entertainment: the John Daly type. If that sounds over-the- top, consider what will be scrutinised more closely when next he plays, his form or his behaviour? It’s crucial for him that his tendency to self-destruct be properly addressed.

While his performance on Wednesday night was irksome to watch, it’s important to recognise we don’t know the whole Kyrgios story. The morning after the night before, I had a chance encounter with one who does have some insights. He argued strenuously that this isn’t a bad young man, pointing to some excellent qualities. Not least of these was the manner in which he conducts his relationship with his girlfriend: a rare and revealing observation by a worldly, older man of a younger one.

Nevertheless, Kyrgios must take personal responsibility for his serial failings. His refusal to do this probably irritates ns more than anything else.

In the days before the n Open, he did a media conference wearing a T-shirt which declared “F— Donald Trump”. Here was youth expressing itself ’60s-style on a big issue.

But I wonder if Kyrgios has worked through all the things he abhors about Trump, for one of these might be the new American President’s pathological inability to accept criticism. If he gets to this point, Kyrgios might see a similarity between Trump’s response to Meryl Streep and his own to John McEnroe.

Something else Kyrgios might ponder is the observation made long ago of Jimmy Connors, in which a writer imagined the abrasive “Jimbo” as a 50-year-old, “sitting alone in an airport between flights, over a cup of coffee, faced with the shards of his past. He will be a man then and he will wish that as a boy he had done it better.” After Kyrgios’ meltdown in Shanghai last October, Connors tweeted an offer to mentor the n. Now, in Melbourne at his national championship, and before the eyes of the tennis world, Kyrgios has performed in a way that McEnroe has described as giving tennis a black eye.

For this pair of erstwhile enfants terribles to recoil at what they’re seeing is significant. Since their playing days ended, both McEnroe and Connors have written autobiographies acknowledging the behavioural failings of their competitive years. Each would agree that as a boy he could have done it better.

McEnroe and Connors won so often, though, that they got away with a lot. Sports fans are invariably more forgiving of winners.

On Wednesday night, Kyrgios lost and was booed.

Yet to merely say he lost is an over-simplification. For I suspect that as his contest with Seppi neared its conclusion, something within his psyche wouldn’t allow Kyrgios to win. He was like a boy who knew he’d done wrong and that it wouldn’t be right – indeed would be embarrassing – to take the prize.

Thus, among myriad other perverse behaviours, we saw him play one shot so inappropriate to the circumstances as to risk giving the game away. In more ways than one.

It told the crowd he didn’t care whether he won or lost. And it revealed him as a confused young man caught in the spotlight.

Chinan Open 2017: Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils progress into fourth round

Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils have made it through to the fourth round of the 2017 n Open after accounting for Gilles Simon and Philipp Kohlschreiber respectively in their third-round encounters at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
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They will be joined there by surprise packet Denis Istomin who continued his seed-slaying run by defeating No.30 seed Pablo Carreno Busta in a five-set thriller 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 which lasted three hours and 27 minutes.

Wildcard Istomin’s latest triumph came just two days after he caused one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history, when he ousted six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the second round.

No.13 seed Roberto Bautista Agut also earned passage to the fourth round after needing more than four hours to finally shake fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in a hard-fought match on Show Court 3.

Frenchman Simon provided Raonic with his sternest test of the tournament to date by not only becoming the first player to take a set off the Canadian but also breaking his serve for the first time after Raonic began his campaign with 42 consecutive holds.

In fact, Simon broke Raonic three times, including a double-break which helped the 25th seed win the third set.

However, despite committing more unforced errors (34-22), Raonic almost doubled Simon for winners (55-31) and sent down 21 aces on his way to a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3 victory in just over two-and-a-half hours.

Raonic will now face Bautista Agut who claimed his first win over Ferrer and is aiming to qualify for his first grand slam quarter-final.

Simon’s compatriot Monfils had few troubles in disposing of Kohlschreiber in straight sets 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 in just under two hours.

The No.6 seed hit more winners (32-22), broke the German five times and had a superior percentage of first-serve points won (76-69).

Monfils will now face Rafael Nadal in a mouth-watering round-of-16 clash after the 14-time major winner downed German young gun Alexander Zverev in a five-set epic on Rod Laver Arena.

Istomin has never made it to a grand slam quarter-final, either, and this is the furthest he has gone in a major since reaching the fourth round of the 2013 US Open.

In order to qualify for a maiden final-eight appearance, he will have to get past 15th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who beat 18th seed Rchard Gasquet at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.

But given his incredible performance against Djokovic two days ago, few adversaries in the men’s draw would hold fears for the veteran Uzbek.

Canberra United warned to avoid avalanche of goals trap against Wanderers

Stand-in Canberra United captain Ash Sykes has warned her teammates against expecting an avalanche of goals when they play the W-League’s worst defensive side on Sunday.
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The rampaging Canberra side has hammered home nine goals in the past two weeks to cement their place as the competition’s most dangerous attacking team.

However, they need to beat the Western Sydney Wanderers at Campbelltown on Sunday to stay in contention for minor premier honours with just two games left in the regular season.

Sykes is the competition’s leading scorer this season with 10 of her own while Canberra’s ruthless attacking unit has dismantled opponents and scored 28 goals in 10 games so far.

Sykes says the best part is they’ve slotted their 28 goals without relying on the most prolific scorer in W-League history, Michelle Heyman, who is racing the clock to recover from injury in time for the finals.

“But we’ve got to bring ourselves back down to earth a bit, and that’s what we’ve done this week at training and at meetings,” Sykes said.

“We have to find some consistency now in good performances heading into the finals. You can’t drop your game in the league this year.

“We have to be concentrating to make sure we get to where we want to be.”

Canberra United will wait until Sunday before deciding whether regular skipper Ellie Brush will make her comeback from a knee injury against the Wanderers.

Brush flew to Sydney on Saturday night after playing her first n football game in an AFL Women’s pre-season clash between the GWS Giants and Brisbane Lions.

Brush damaged her medial ligament more than a month ago and is keen to earn her spot for a W-League recall while also juggling her AFL Women’s commitments.

But Canberra has been firing in her absence and cruised to a 7-2 rout against Perth last weekend.

The Wanderers present an unpredictable challenge for title-contenders Canberra after losing 10-2 against the previously win-less Adelaide last weekend.

But Sykes says Canberra’s up-and-down experience in recent weeks will help safeguard them against expecting a win against the Wanderers.

Despite riding high this season, Canberra has won just one of its past three matches and the players are still stinging from a 6-1 defeat against Sydney FC at the start of January.

“We know what the feeling is like after you have a big loss, you have a mentality that you’re not going to let it happen again,” Sykes said.

“We also know that what happened to Western Sydney last week doesn’t count for anything. They’re going to be dangerous, especially at home.

“We’ve seen the best and worst of us this year so we’ll be aiming to keep things on track.”

W-LEAGUE ROUND 13

Sunday: Canberra United v Western Sydney Wanderers at Campbelltown Stadium, 2.30pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports and ABC.

Weir dominates the Valley with four timer as Big Duke seals Hobart Cup trip

Trainer Darren Weir has plenty to smile about. Photo: Vince CaligiuriLast season Darren Weir smashed John Hawkes’ record for training the most winners in an n season when he saddled up  348 of them. Can  he go even better  and  nudge the 400 barrier?
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Its a question worth asking after he boosted his tally by another four  at Moonee Valley on Saturday, taking his total for the season so far to 214. The 2016-17 campaign still has more than six months to run, so he is ahead of schedule.

The scary thing for his opponents is that he continues to upgrade his stock.  Only recently he was given Winx’s little brother, El Divino, to train, along with some promising imports owned by n Bloodstock.

One galloper who has already contributed to the Weir record several times in the past couple of years is the  game and consistent  Burning Front, who led all the way to win the feature at the Valley on Saturday – the 13th victory of his career.  The  win took his career earnings to well over $700,000.

Burning Front was ridden by Brad Rawiller, one of four  jockeys to ride winners for Weir –  the others being Damian Lane, Ben Allen and Craig Williams.

But it is another of his scorers, English import Big Duke, who has the most potential.

The five year old arrived in without much fanfare given that his sole victory in his first four starts had been in a low-rating race at Wetherby, better known as a jumps track in the UK.

But since joining Weir he has taken great strides and his victory in a 2040-metre handicap  was his second in three weeks following his win at Caulfield on Boxing Day.

On both occasions he has been partnered by leading apprentice Allen, although it’s fair to say that the horse’s class  got his youthful rider out of trouble on Saturday after he appeared to have been outpointed early in the straight by Cool Chap, the Lee Freedman galloper ridden by three-kilo claiming Boris Thornton.

Big Duke had enough in the tank to get clear in the closing stages to win by a length, giving Weir and his team hope that he could add to their honour roll in the Hobart Cup next month, a valuable staying race they have won with the likes of True Courser, Offenbach and Hurdy Gurdy Man.

“I thought Boris outrode Ben to be honest, he got around him, Ben missed the boat a bit. Lucky the horse was good enough to get Ben out of trouble,” was Weir’s relieved verdict as  his $1.90 favourite returned to scale.

“Today was to see whether we go to the Hobart Cup or not and I reckon he deserves his trip over there. Luke Murrell, who buys all these horses, kept saying to me all prep ‘wait until you see him when he gets over a mile-and-a-half and he will be better again’.”

The way he won today would suggest he’s right on the mark to run a strong 2400 metres.

“He was a bit of hard work in his first two starts, but now he has started to work with us and he’s been a bit more tractable. Jarrod [Warrnambool-based assistant trainer Jarrod McLean] and the crew do a great job to get these horses right.”

Another Weir horse with improvement in her is progressive Zabeel mare Zasorceress, who scored in the 1600-metre handicap for fillies and mares.

The $5 chance had only recently moved to the Weir yard having been tried against the best stayers  of her age in Sydney and Brisbane last autumn and winter, and she obliged here under Damian Lane.

Weir’s other winner was the three-year-old Gratwick in the opener, the first leg of a  Williams double the rider completed on Domino Vitale for Colin Little.

Englishman Archie Alexander had a welcome city winner with improving three-year-old filly Wheal Leisure (Michael Dee), while apprentice Ben Thompson got on the scoresheet when he got up in the final stride on Cindy Alderson’s consistent Smart Dart. Mark Zahra added to his premiership total with a win on Lady Esprit for Ciaron Maher before Team Hawkes took the honours in the last event with  Ameristralia.

New Holden Racing Team Commodore divides fans

Titleholder Shane van Gisbergen and his six-time champion teammate Jamie Whincup are expected to renew their Supercars battle this season in new-look Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodores. Photo: Mark Fogarty The new Commodore. Photo: Mark Fogarty
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The new Holden Racing Team Commodore. Photo: Mark Fogarty

Fan reaction to the transfer of the iconic Holden Racing Team brand to dominant Supercars squad Triple Eight has at best been mixed.

Moving the moniker away from long-time custodian Walkinshaw Racing was never going to be popular with diehard followers, but it is the new look of the old name that is proving most divisive.

It is a discordant merger of Triple Eight’s existing Red Bull backing with its additional status as the Holden Racing Team, taking over as the sole factory backed Holden team in Supercars.

Thursday’s unveiling of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team prompted plenty of comment on social media, with a sizeable proportion critical of the new livery that adorns the Commodores of defending V8 champion Shane van Gisbergen and record six-time title-winner Jamie Whincup.

The main complaint is that the new look is dominated by the energy drink giant and lacks the traditional graphic cues that were HRT signatures for more than two decades.

Gone is the emblematic lion and helmet logo that featured on the sides of HRT Commodores since the team’s inception in 1990.

The change also marks the end of Team Red, which became HRT’s alter ego after it adopted Holden’s corporate colour as its predominant hue in 1998.

The RBHRT livery is mainly matte blue with large generic Holden signage that appears more Red Bull cerise than Lion scarlet.

Nowhere on the cars does it say Holden Racing Team, which to entrenched followers confirms that the once mighty brand is now but an adjunct.

The traditional lion emblem was never going to sit comfortably with Red Bull’s rampant bull symbol and, despite the best efforts of Holden designers, became an inevitable casualty of the alliance.

While Holden’s backing is worth at least $2 million a year, Red Bull is the team’s primary sponsor – contributing at least $4 million – and commands the main signage rights.

As Holden’s flagship Supercars squad, HRT gathered a legion of fans based on its factory alignment as much as its dominance in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It was the most popular team by far in Supercars and retained a large dedicated following during its decline over the past decade.

Holden ended its backing of the Walkinshaw operation and switched the factory team imprimatur to Triple Eight in a money saving consolidation of its diminishing motor sport involvement.

Concentrating its support on Triple Eight makes sense as since the team switched from Ford in 2010, it has dominated Supercars and overshadowed HRT, which hasn’t been a championship contender since 2009 and hasn’t won the Bathurst 1000 since 2011.

It was a far cry from HRT’s golden era from 1996-2002, when Craig Lowndes and then Mark Skaife dominated, winning a combined six V8 championships and three Bathurst 1000s.

But to many of the HRT faithful, Triple Eight is still the enemy, regarded as an interloper that hopped on the Holden bandwagon when it lost Ford’s backing in a dispute, perhaps ironically, over colour schemes.

Triple Eight dominated the Supercars championship with factory backed Falcons in 2008/09, but fell out with Ford because it raced them in red in deference to primary sponsor Vodafone rather than being predominantly blue.

There is no doubt that Triple Eight will restore the Holden Racing Team name as a front-runner, which should appease most of HRT’s long-suffering fans.

But there will remain resistance at an emotional level because in its new guise, Holden Racing Team is more of a label than an entity.

Holden fans need to get used to the idea, however, as the Lion’s future in Supercars is inexorably linked with Brisbane-based Triple Eight Race Engineering, which under Anglo-Irish owner Roland Dane – who became an n citizen last August – has become the benchmark Supercars team over the past decade.

As well as adopting the HRT appellation, Triple Eight is developing the next-generation Holden Commodore racer to take over next year, powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 allowed under the new Gen2 rules.

Triple Eight will also supply all Holden teams with the main components of the new Commodore racer – the look of which is based on the imported road car replacing the locally made model in 2018 – in a centralisation of supply that will include a single source for the American-made 3.6-litre V6 that will replace the traditional five-litre V8.

The adverse reaction of a large body of fans notwithstanding, Holden – which is committed to Supercars through 2019 – and Triple Eight are convinced the Red Bull HRT amalgamation will eventually win over disaffected fans.

“This is a big moment for us,” Dane said at the launch of RBHRT. “I’m very proud of the two big brands we have brought together.

“We want to make sure that we’re winning as much as we ever did. So if that has the roll-on effect of underlining the Holden Racing Team as part of Red Bull Holden Racing Team, then we’re doing our job.”

Van Gisbergen is looking forward to defending his Supercars crown under the HRT banner, noting that the team was an early inspiration in its glory years.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I grew up in the Skaifey era, when it was the main team. To be part of that history now is pretty awesome. I’m pretty stoked to be a part of all that.”

Holden owns the HRT brand and has also kept the rights to the historic lion and helmet logo, which while it may never be seen again on a race car, could return as an off-track symbol.

“It’s been put on the shelf,” Holden’s motor sport and sponsorship manager Simon McNamara said. “We looked at how we could make it work with the race team, but it couldn’t come together to please everybody. We’re very happy with how it’s come up.

“But the [lion/helmet] logo could come back in some way. It represents us and we may not may not use it in some way in the future.”

McNamara engineered Holden’s three-year exclusive deal with Triple Eight, but his future with the company is the subject of speculation.

Despite his presence at the RBHRT launch on Thursday and Holden’s confirmation that, as of Friday, he was still its motor sport representative, there have been reports that he is about to leave the company.

Sources at Holden indicated that the management of its involvement in Supercars would be “clarified” early this week.

Transfer of Holden brand has diehard fans all revved up

The Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. Photo: Mark FogartyFan reaction to the transfer of the iconic Holden Racing Team brand to dominant Supercars squad Triple Eight has at best been mixed.
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Moving the moniker away from long-time custodian Walkinshaw Racing was never going to be popular with diehard followers, but it is the new look of the old name that is proving most divisive.

It is a discordant merger of Triple Eight’s existing Red Bull backing with its additional status as the Holden Racing Team, taking over as the sole factory-backed Holden team in Supercars.

Thursday’s unveiling of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team prompted plenty of comment on social media, with a sizeable proportion critical of the new livery that adorns the Commodores of defending V8 champion Shane van Gisbergen and record six-time title-winner Jamie Whincup.

The main complaint is that the new look is dominated by the energy drink giant and lacks the traditional graphic cues that were HRT signatures for more than two decades.

Gone is the emblematic lion and helmet logo that featured on the sides of HRT Commodores since the team’s inception in 1990.

The change also marks the end of Team Red, which became HRT’s alter ego after it adopted Holden’s corporate colour as its predominant hue in 1998.

The RBHRT livery is mainly matte blue with large generic Holden signage that appears more Red Bull cerise than Lion scarlet.

Nowhere on the cars does it say Holden Racing Team, which to entrenched followers confirms that the once mighty brand is now but an adjunct.

The traditional lion emblem was never going to sit comfortably with Red Bull’s rampant bull symbol and, despite the best efforts of Holden designers, became an inevitable casualty of the alliance.

While Holden’s backing is worth at least $2 million a year, Red Bull is the team’s primary sponsor – contributing at least $4 million – and commands the main signage rights.

As Holden’s flagship Supercars squad, HRT gathered a legion of fans based on its factory alignment as much as its dominance in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It was the most popular team by far in Supercars and retained a large dedicated following during its decline over the past decade.

Holden ended its backing of the Walkinshaw operation and switched the factory team imprimatur to Triple Eight in a money-saving consolidation of its diminishing motor sport involvement.

Concentrating its support on Triple Eight makes sense as since the team switched from Ford in 2010, it has dominated Supercars and overshadowed HRT, which hasn’t been a championship contender since 2009 and hasn’t won the Bathurst 1000 since 2011.

It was a far cry from HRT’s golden era from 1996-2002, when Craig Lowndes and then Mark Skaife dominated, winning a combined six V8 championships and three Bathurst 1000s.

But to many of the HRT faithful, Triple Eight is still the enemy, regarded as an interloper that hopped on the Holden bandwagon when it lost Ford’s backing in a dispute, perhaps ironically, over colour schemes.

Triple Eight dominated the Supercars championship with factory-backed Falcons in 2008-09, but fell out with Ford because it raced them in red in deference to primary sponsor Vodafone rather than being predominantly blue.

There is no doubt that Triple Eight will restore the Holden Racing Team name as a front-runner, which should appease most of HRT’s long-suffering fans. But there will remain resistance at an emotional level because in its new guise, Holden Racing Team is more of a label than an entity.

Holden fans need to get used to the idea, however, as the Lion’s future in Supercars is inexorably linked with Brisbane-based Triple Eight Race Engineering, which under Anglo-Irish owner Roland Dane – who became an n citizen last August – has become the benchmark Supercars team over the past decade.

As well as adopting the HRT appellation, Triple Eight is developing the next-generation Holden Commodore racer to take over next year, powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 allowed under the new Gen2 rules.

Triple Eight will also supply all Holden teams with the main components of the new Commodore racer – the look of which is based on the imported road car replacing the locally made model in 2018 – in a centralisation of supply that will include a single source for the American-made 3.6-litre V6 that will replace the traditional five-litre V8.

The adverse reaction of a large body of fans notwithstanding, Holden – which is committed to Supercars through 2019 – and Triple Eight are convinced the Red Bull HRT amalgamation will eventually win over disaffected fans.

“This is a big moment for us,” Dane said at the launch of RBHRT. “I’m very proud of the two big brands we have brought together.

“We want to make sure that we’re winning as much as we ever did. So if that has the roll-on effect of underlining the Holden Racing Team as part of Red Bull Holden Racing Team, then we’re doing our job.”

Van Gisbergen is looking forward to defending his Supercars crown under the HRT banner.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I grew up in the Skaifey era, when it was the main team. To be part of that history now is pretty awesome. I’m pretty stoked to be a part of all that.”

Holden owns the HRT brand and has also kept the rights to the historic lion and helmet logo, which while it may never be seen again on a race car, could return as an off-track symbol. “It’s been put on the shelf,” Holden’s motor sport and sponsorship manager Simon McNamara said. “We looked at how we could make it work with the race team, but it couldn’t come together to please everybody. We’re very happy with how it’s come up. But the (lion/helmet) logo could come back in some way.”

McNamara engineered Holden’s three-year exclusive deal with Triple Eight, but his future with the company is the subject of speculation. Despite his presence at the RBHRT launch on Thursday and Holden’s confirmation that, as of Friday, he was still its motor sport representative, there have been reports that he is about to leave the company.

Sources at Holden indicated that the management of its involvement in Supercars would be “clarified” early this week.

Stephen Larkham and ACT Brumbies confident in fight to retain roster of off-contract stars

ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham will juggle pre-season preparations with contract talks, declaring player negotiations won’t be a distraction in his final year as the club’s leader.
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The Brumbies are in a fight to re-sign more than 20 players off-contract players and rich European clubs have circled some of their stars as recruitment targets.

The Brumbies play their first pre-season trial on Saturday night and are just five weeks away from their Super Rugby season-opener against the Canterbury Crusaders.

Larkham is entering his final campaign as Brumbies coach before moving into a full-time Wallabies assistant’s role at the end of the year.

But he will continue to lead contract talks until his successor is appointed, which could be as early as the end of February.

Wallabies outside centre Tevita Kuridrani has been pursued by overseas clubs while Scott Fardy, Sam Carter and Tomas Cubelli are on a list of more than 20 players looking for new deals.

Former ARU chairman Peter McGrath voiced his concerns about the long list of off-contract Brumbies in a blog on the Griffin Legal website last week.

“We’re working with a lot of players at the moment to look at 2018, 2019 and 2020,” Larkham said.

“I don’t think the number of players off contract is relevant. What is relevant is that we’re constantly in negotiations with players, whether it’s during the season, pre-season or post season.

“It’s a never-ending cycle and you’re constantly looking at your squad for down the track. The position we’re in at the moment is no different to any other year.

“It’s not an alarm or anything like that, it’s just genuinely the way negotiations occur.”

New Brumbies chief executive Michael Thomson will begin his tenure on Monday and his first task will be finding Larkham’s replacement.

The Brumbies board has set a target of having the club’s coaching future finalised as early as the end of February with Larkham set to take a full-time Wallabies assistant coach’s role at the end of the year.

Brumbies forward coach Dan McKellar looms as one of the front-runners to fill Larkham’s shoes while it’s understood several overseas-based candidates have also applied for the position.

The Brumbies have been working with several players since the end of last year in the hope they would commit to new deals, despite not knowing who the coach will be.

“Part of my role at the moment is to make sure the long-term future of the Brumbies is successful,” Larkham said.

“I think that there are some obvious choices and then the new coach will also have a say, too. We’ll keep talking to players now and through the season.”

The Brumbies have a handful of key players already locked into new deals from 2018 and beyond, including Scott Sio, Henry Speight, Rory Arnold and Allan Alaalatoa.

Kuridrani has been targeted by some clubs in France but the powerful Fijian has become a mainstay of the Brumbies’ back line in the past five years.

The 25-year-old forced his way back into the Wallabies team at the end of last year and scored tries in four of ‘s five Tests on the spring tour of Europe.

“Tevita has a big decision to make … he usually goes under the radar but he’s the rock in our back line,” Speight said.

“When he’s firing, our back line is firing. He’s the one who puts us over the gain line every time.

“I’m sure he’ll come to the right decision for him and his family at the end of the day, but we’d love to see him hang around and stay.”

SUPER RUGBY PRE-SEASON

January 28: ACT Brumbies v n Barbarians at Viking Park, 5.30pm.

February 4: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Mudgee.

February 11-12: Brisbane Global 10s at Suncorp Stadium.

Fisherman dies after being swept off rocks in NSW south coast

Emergency crews were called out to Tathra after a group of fishermen were swept off the rocks. Photo: Jacob McMaster A man has died and four others have been rescued after being swept off rocks while fishing at Tathra on the state’s far south coast on Saturday.
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The group were fishing on a rock platform to the south of Tathra Headland when they were washed off the rocks by a rogue wave shortly before 1pm.

Local police officers, assisted by a Westpac Rescue Helicopter and NSW surf lifesavers, searched the area surrounding the popular fishing spot.

A NSW Surf Lifesaving statement said two of the men who were dragged out to sea by the waves were able to scramble back onto the rocks, with the remaining three pulled out of the water by inflatable rescue boats.

As a result of being immersed in the water, two of these men required CPR.

One of the men responded favourably to the treatment by lifesavers, while the other, believed to be in his 50s, died at the scene.

Conditions at the time of the incident are understood to be “choppy” with strong winds and wave sets of between 2-3 metes reported by local lifesavers.

Neither the deceased man or the other man requiring CPR were wearing a lifejacket at the time they were washed into the water, a NSW Surf Lifesaving statement read.

On Friday, Surf lifesavers and the Bureau of Meteorology warned rock fishers, in particular, to be “aware of deceptive conditions especially when getting onto and off exposed platforms”.

Rock fishing is widely recognised as one of the most dangerous sports in , with an average of eight people losing their lives to the sport every year in NSW alone.

Saturday’s incident adds to the spate of drowning deaths that have plagued the state’s waterways over the summer holiday period. About twenty people have drowned since Christmas in NSW.

Violent swells are expected to lash the NSW coast for the remainder of the weekend.

Declassified documents show CIA’s interest in Chinan communism

The CIA warned that the Chifley government could face “crippled” industries if the Communist Party of intervened. Photo: National Archives of The CIA released about 930,000 documents on Wednesday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite
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A secret CIA memo warned of the n Communist Party’s ability to “cripple n production” just months before the 1949 coal miner strike.

The American intelligence agency prepared a recently declassified, 10-page dossier on communist influence on n trade unions and the then Labor government in April, 1949.

The report is one of several from the CIA to detail communist activity in from the end of the Second World War through to the 1960s, which were published on the agency’s Freedom of Information Act website this week.

It described the government as slow to counteract the growth of communist power in unions and “notoriously lax regarding security measures” in the past.

One of the report’s observations, that “communist power at present is sufficient to cripple the entire n economy temporarily by stopping transport and coal production”, proved to be prophetic.

Just two months after it was published, 23,000 coal miners went on strike and returned to work only after the government used the military to break the production.

But the report also said there was no evidence the Communist Party had any direct influence on the government, nor was there proof of contact between the n party and the Soviet Union.

“The US Naval Attache in Melbourne has reported that the Labor government is under communist domination, with two cabinet members probable communists and another cabinet member and Speaker of the House,” the report said.

“There are, however, no known Communists in the federal parliament and only one state legislator (Queensland parliament) is a known party member.”

Other declassified documents showed the CIA expected the failed 1951 referendum to ban the Communist Party would be successful, but described the voters as lacking enthusiasm and then opposition leader HV Evatt as “becoming hysterical if not desperate” in attacks on the government.

Another detailed interactions between the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China and their counterparts in and New Zealand.

Little was mentioned of the Chinese agent’s interactions with the n Communist Party, but the document noted the New Zealand Communist Party followed China’s advice to attempt to create a “clandestine party organisation” parallel to the existing one.

But the idea fell apart in New Zealand, and the report said the party’s leader “was apparently criticised for ‘his’ mishandling of the plan” on a return visit to China in 1968.

The documents, part of the 11 million document strong CIA Records Search Tool, were only available to view in person at the National Archives in Maryland until the agency decided to publish the collection online this month.

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall star attractions at Malcolm Turnbull’s business drinks

Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall leave Kirribilli House as Malcolm Turnbull hosts a reception for big business on Saturday, Photo: Christopher Pearce SBS boss Michael Ebeid arrives at Kirribilli House as Malcolm Turnbull hosts a reception for business leaders. Photo: Christopher Pearce
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While all eyes were on Washington over the weekend as one billionaire officially entered public office, another touched down in to be entertained by our public officers.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, together with his wife, model and thespian Jerry Hall, were the main attraction at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s sundowner soiree at Kirribilli House on Saturday.

As foreshadowed in The n Financial Review, Hall, Murdoch and his son Lachlan were joined by a handful of chairmen and chief executives, including local entrepeneur Gerry Harvey, newlyweds Ryan and Clare Stokes, the Commonwealth Bank’s Catherine Livingstone and SBS boss Michael Ebeid at the Prime Minister’s secondary Sydney residence for a belated Christmas party.

Some of Turnbull’s cabinet stars, such as new Federal Industry minister Arthur Sinodinos, also turned out to help the host pass around the cocktail franks and dish up acceptable small talk.

Despite only making a cameo appearance, the 85-year-old businessman looked spritely, sophisticated and relaxed in a blue lounge suit, while Hall opted for a ruby midi skirt suit with matching handbag. The couple, who married last March, both accessorised their looks with beaming smiles and some Barack and Michelle Obama-inspired PDA.

It is understood Murdoch is in town to check in with his News Corp lieutenants, while back home in the United States his beleaguered Fox News network announced its latest talking head – former Ukip leader and Donald Trump cheerleader Nigel Farage.

The appointment adds weight to the recent New York Magazine report that Murdoch, who also owns Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, The Sun and The Times papers in London, is working hard to establish a relationship with the newly installed President by speaking to Trump three times a week.

While ‘Jupert’ are down under, Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Murdoch was on the ground in Washington enjoying the inauguration celebrations with her close friend, Ivanka Trump.

She accompanied Trump’s daughter to a candlelit pre-inauguration dinner on Thursday before taking a front-row seat at the swearing in ceremony on Friday.   A photo posted by Wendi Murdoch (@wendimurdoch) on Jan 20, 2017 at 4:57am PST

Adam Hyeronimus emulates dad by wining the Carrington Stakes

On a mission: Adam Hyeronimus rides Equador to win theCarrington Stakes. Photo: bradleyphotos苏州夜总会招聘.auWizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing
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Adam Hyeronimus has wanted to win the Carrington Stakes since he was a kid, and one of his favourite horses, Ecuador, got the job done for him on Saturday.

Like his first-up win in December, Ecuador sat off the speed and sprinted to victory, holding off Shiraz late,  and could be heading for bigger targets.

But this win meant more to Hyeronimus because his father Craig won the Carrington on Young Blood in 1984.

“Dad didn’t win many stakes races and I always knew this was a race he had won,” Hyeronimus said. “That makes a bit more special because it has been a race I have wanted to win all my life.

“I came here on a bit of a mission.”

The Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott stable have always held a good opinion of Ecuador,  but as a seven-year-old he might be racing in the best form of his career.

He has been placed at group1 level when runner-up to Winx in the Epsom Handicap a couple of years ago. He chalked up his 10th win and fifth for Hyeronimus, who has built a great association with him.

“He is a horse that really goes well for me and I have had a lot of success on,” Hyeronimus said. “He has really come back in great shape and I would say this is the best he has raced, which you can’t say about many seven-year-olds.

“He is a brilliant miler but at the moment he is loving 1400 metres. He is really sharp.”

Bott was not ruling anything out with Ecuador after the win and Sydney and Melbourne are both in play.

A similar preparation to this could see him run in the Orr Stakes at Caulfield on February 11, the first group1 of the year.

“We might have to up our sights over the autumn now,” Bott said. “Last campaign he had some good form around listed and group 3 races but hopefully this time around with the right placement, we’ll be able to win a nice race with him.”

“He is doing it tough, carrying the weight and running strong through the line. He is a happy horse.”

Meanwhile, apprentice Nick Heywood celebrated his 21st birthday by scoring on Got Unders in a tight finish to the Huawei Handicap.

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